Thursday, September 13, 2012

College Football 2012 - Week 3 Preview

Big 10
What I am watching:  Michigan State hosting Notre Dame.  The Spartans are now the torch-bearer for the Big 10 and have revenge on their minds as the Fighting Irish visit Saturday night.  Michigan State's defense looks like it is for real, so maybe they will not need Andrew Maxwell to make many big plays to win.  I expect the Irish to focus on Laveon Bell and make Maxwell try to beat them.  I don't expect a ton of points in this one.

Upset alert:  Western Michigan at Minnesota.  The Broncos have not beaten a Big 10 team, but do bring an experienced quarterback and improving offense into visit the Gophers.  While Minnesota is 2-0, they did need overtime to best a typically poor UNLV team.  The game will likely come down to either MarQueis Gray or Alex Carder making (or not making) a key play.  Last week:  UCLA over Nebraska :)

Player on the spot:  Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin.  The Heisman candidacy was short-lived, but its time to start winning football games.  The offensive line has not helped, but Ball does not look like the same quick, decisive running back from 2011.  Wisconsin needs the old Ball to get back on the winning track against an underrated Utah State team coming off a huge upset of Utah.  Last week:  Andrew Maxwell, 20-31, 275 yards, 2 TD in a win over Central Michigan.

What I am watching:  The early-season battle of potential ACC Coastal contenders with Virginia at Georgia Tech.  The Yellow Jackets played Virginia Tech tough and should have won the game, but that loss makes Saturday a must-win to avoid an 0-2 conference start.  Virginia escaped against Penn State last week and needs to show more offensively to be a player in the ACC this season.

Upset alert:  Virginia at Georgia Tech.  Really the only one on the board to keep an eye on this week, but there is no reason the Cavaliers can't go into Bobby Dodd Stadium and steal a victory.  Last week: Wake Forest over North Carolina :)

Player on the spot:  Chase Rettig, QB, Boston College.  Rettig is off to a great start in 2012 with over 600 yards passing and 5 TD's.  Rettig leads the Eagles on the road at Northwestern this week and will need to continue his superb play for B.C. to have a chance at the upset.  Last week:  Perry Jones, 8 rushes for 14 yards and 4 catches for 14 yards in a 17-16 victory over Penn State.

What I am watching:  Can Tennessee end their recent skid against the Gators or will Florida keep doing enough to get by?  Things would appear to be aligning for a Volunteer victory on Saturday, but the last time Tennessee could claim bragging rights in this series was 2004. Injuries and a skittish offense might eventually do the Gators in and the Volunteers appear to be better stacked with weapons on both sides of the ball than in recent years.

Upset alert: Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn.  The Tigers are 0-2 and ULM just beat Arkansas.  It usually doesn't happen this way, but why not??  Last week:  Northwestern over Vanderbilt :)

Player on the spot:  James Franklin, QB, Missouri.  After a second half beating at the hands of Georgia, Missouri hosts the white-hot offense of Arizona State this week.  Franklin will need to step-up his game to keep up with the Sun Devils and avoid consecutive home losses.  Last week:  Dan Mullen, 28-10 winner over Auburn.

Big 12
What I am watching:  How does Oklahoma State respond to last week's loss with a talented Louisiana-Lafayette visiting Stillwater?  The Ragin' Cajuns are no slouch, so the Cowboys better figure out their defensive woes and turnover problems before they are staring at 1-2.  The prescription might be a heavy dose of Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith.

Upset alert:  Sam Houston State at Baylor.  Am I stretching on this one?  Baylor looked really good in dispatching SMU in their opener but Sam Houston State was the FCS runner-up a year ago.  If nothing else, expect this one to be closer than expected.  Last week:  Miami, FL over Kansas State (ouch!!).

Coach on the spot:  Charlie Weis, Kansas.  Last week's loss against Rice deflated any optimism in the Jayhawk program under it's first year coach.  How Weis gets his team to respond this week as talented Big 12 newbie TCU visits will show me us a lot.  Or is Weis just one of the most over-rated coaches in recent memory?  Last week:  Steele Jantz, 24-36, 241 Yards, 1 TD, 2 Int, 14 carries, 40 yards in Iowa State's 9-6 upset of Iowa.

What I am watching:  USC's first big test at Stanford.  I am not sure we really know who the real Stanford is at this point, but they can run the football and play solid defense which has to be a recipe to beat the Trojans.  Keeping the ball away from Barkley/Redd/Lee/Woods would seem like a good idea.  Detractors from USC say that depth will ultimately be their downfall, but having this one in the early season works in their favor.

Upset alert:  Washington State at UNLV.  The Rebels play much better at home and Mike Leach's Cougars are still an enigma.  If the Rebels can cause some turnovers, Tim Cornett may be able to carry them to an upset.  Last week:  Illinois over Arizona State (ouch part II!!).

Player on the spot:  Jon Hayes, QB, Utah.  The career-ending injury to Jordan Wynn has thrust Hayes into the starting role.  After failing to save the day against rival #1 Utah State, Hayes must now try to conquer rival #2 as BYU visits this week.  The Cougar defense is vastly underrated, so Hayes will need an improved performance to keep the Utes in this one.  Last week:  Johnathan Franklin, 26 carries, 217 yards, 3 catches, 59 yards, 1 TD in the 36-30 upset of Nebraska.

Big East
What I am watching:  The Thursday night tussle between Rutgers and South Florida, the first match-up between Big East favorites this season.  Rutgers is struggling to find an offensive identity but boasts a strong defense.  South Florida might have the top offense in the conference but has had some defensive lapses thus far.  It will be interesting to see which unit shows the improvement to lead their team to victory.

Upset alert:  Connecticut at Maryland.  I get a little leery when I see Connecticut as a road favorite against another BCS school.  I have been bashing Maryland (based on last season), but they are 2-0 coming off a win against another Big East school in Temple.  Last week:  Begrudgingly Maryland over Temple

Player in the spotlight:  Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville.  Let's put a spotlight on Mr. Bridgewater this week in a big non-conference game against North Carolina.  The Tar Heels can score points, so it will be imperative for Bridgewater to continue his strong play to lead the Cardinals to victory and stamp Louisville as both a viable contender in the Big East and nationally.  Last week:  Ryan Nassib, 30-46, 322 yards, 2 TD, 2 Int in a 42-29 loss vs USC.

Non-BCS Conferences
What I am watching:  I am always watching for how many victories the Non-BCS schools can accumulate against the BCS conferences.  Ohio, Nevada, Colorado State, Utah State, Louisiana-Monroe, and Rice have done it the first two weeks with the victories over Penn State, California, Colorado, Utah, Arkansas and Kansas, respectively.  Last season the total was 15.  Which games this week might add to the current 6?  Let's watch these 8...Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn, Texas A&M at SMU, Western Michigan at Minnesota, Ball State at Indiana, Washington State at UNLV, Colorado at Fresno State, Utah State at Wisconsin and Louisiana-Lafayette at Oklahoma State.

Upset alert:  East Carolina at Southern Mississippi.  Both teams have uncertain quarterback situations, so don't be surprised if the Pirates pull the upset in this closely-contested conference rivalry.  Last week:  North Dakota State over Colorado State (5-2 on upsets, not too bad).

Player on the spot:  Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall.  Cato has a chance to make a name for himself and halt my early talk of an unbeaten season for Ohio.  Through two games Cato has been superb, but a different challenge awaits him with the Bobcats defense.  If he can outplay his counterpart Tyler Tettleton, Marshall could exact revenge from last year's thrashing at Ohio.  Last week:  Travis Bush, OC, Houston, 93 total yards, 580 yards passing in a 56-49 loss to Louisiana Tech.

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